Moondog’s Holiday Rock Party

8th Street Rox started the night off strong.

8th Street Rox started the night off strong.

A triumvirate of top Pittsburgh rockers converged on Moondog’s Music Bar this past Saturday night for Holiday Rocks Blawnox. Rockin’ the “dog” were Norman Nardini, Bill Toms and Hard Rain, and 8th Street Rox. Before the show I had a chance to speak with the band leaders. Nardini, who bills himself as “Pittsburgh’s uncrowned king of rock-n-roll,” relayed that he’s working on some new material for release. Toms said his 11th annual fundraiser, done in conjunction with wife Joyce, was another great success at the Hard Rock Cafe last month and raised some substantial funds for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Pittsburgh. Mike Filosemi, lead vocalist and guitarist of 8th Street Rox, said the band is continuing to have fun and looks forward to a strong 2017.

Fun mural at Moondog's of dogs playing their favorite musical instruments.

Fun mural at Moondog’s of dogs playing their favorite musical instruments.

Moondog’s was jumping for the sold-out show. The friendly bartenders were working hard to keep cold beverages in patrons’ hands. The crowd was amped and ready for the bands. First up was 8th Street Rox. Filosemi led the talented musicians through their paces. The crowd went wild mid-set when they played Bruce Springsteen’s “Out in the Street.” Other Springsteen faves performed were “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” Mark McCollum, on sax for 8th Street Rox, paralleled the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons’ parts nicely. Also notable in the set was Little Richard’s “Lucille.”

Norm Nardini singing and playing a scorching guitar run while the rest of the band provides ample rock support.

Norman Nardini singing and playing a scorching guitar run while the rest of the band provides ample rock support.

Nardini took the stage next sans drummer for a few quieter songs. Then drummer Mike Floccari came in and they took off on a run that included “Nothing to Lose” and “Friend of Mine.” The former saw Nardini burning through some killer guitar riffs while the band ran along with him accompanied by strong, steady beats from Floccari. In addition to being a guitar virtuoso, Nardini is a consummate entertainer, often referring to himself as the “Manful! Handful!” and engaging in witty repartee with the audience.

Bill Toms plays some killer lead guitar riffs (c.) while Hard Rain and the Soulville Horns jam on.

Bill Toms plays some killer lead guitar riffs (c.) while Hard Rain and the Soulville Horns jam on.

Bill Toms and Hard Rain with the Soulville Horns followed Nardini to close out the night. Toms was the lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers before forming his own band over a decade ago. Toms and band kept the rock-and-roll party going, generating a big sound from the intimate stage. Poet-guitar lord Toms brings so much energy to his songs with his slightly raspy, deeply soulful voice. Bernie Herr delivered a steady beat and the Soulville Horns, with Phil Brontz on sax, provided a strong breeze of hot brass sound. Popular Bill Toms songs included “Mona Lisa Smile,” “Darkest Side of Town,” and “Somebody Help Me.” The dance floor was crowded for most of the set. Moondog’s owner Ron Esser got a shout out from each band for his support of Pittsburgh rock and roll. There was also great camaraderie among the bands. Both the rockers and the audience departed into the Blawnox night having had a blast.

View from the side of the stage of people dancing to Bill Toms and Hard Rain.

View from the side of the stage of people dancing to Bill Toms and Hard Rain.

Photos: Rick Handler

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and enjoys great music.